Power tillers to the rescue?

The machine will ease labour shortage

Agriculture: Many parts of Trashigang are increasingly witnessing more uncultivated arable land attributed largely to shortage of labour, wild life attacks and irrigation issues leaving farmers and agriculture officials in dilemma.

Records with the agriculture department show about 2,292 acres of fallow dry land and 400 acres of wetland in 2013.

The trend, dzongkhag agriculture officer DC Bhandari said, is a concern.

The arrival of power tillers could change that, even if it would be addressing only a part of the numerous factors leading to fallowing of land.

“The labour shortage issue would be addressed with power tillers reaching the gewogs,” DC Bhandari said. “Although it’s only one power tiller per gewog, we are expecting it to make some difference.”

To improve the situation, the agriculture department also supports construction of irrigation channels and electric fences in villages.

With about 337 acres of arable land left uncultivated, Khaling has one of the highest uncultivated land in Trashigang.  However, people have now started using power tillers in their fields.

Farmers have decided to grow potatoes on their fallow land this year. So far, more than 10 households have hired the power tiller from the gewog agriculture extension office. There are more farmers waiting to avail the facility for potato and maize plantation.

Gewog agriculture extension supervisor Pema Wangchuk expects cultivation to improve in the gewog this year.

In Samkhar, gup Sonam Dorji said every year villagers in Samkhar leave some parts of their fields uncultivated that is attributed to labour shortage and wildlife attacks.

Today, more than 260 acres of fields lie fallow in Samkhar where some areas have even turned into forest.  “With young people leaving for urban areas, there are not many hands to cultivate the fields,” Gup Sonam Dorji said.

While power tillers could boost cultivation for now, he said, the government must explore solutions for the increasing human-wildlife conflicts. “For this, a proper study should be conducted to understand the increasing human-wildlife conflict every year,” he said.

Many villagers feel that merely providing power tiller and electric fencing is not enough to solve the issue.

For people of Phongmey gewog where about 20 percent of the total arable land lie fallow, power tillers are not the solution to make a difference. The gewog is yet to receive a power tiller.

“Lack of irrigation water is a key issue. Unless the gewog looks into it, the availability of power tillers is not going to solve the issue,” Phongmey gup, Palden Dorji said.

Besides Phongmey, Radhi and Samkhar gewogs haven’t received power tillers yet.

With about 40 power tillers in Radhi gewog today that are owned by villagers, the arrival of one power tiller is not going to solve the issue of fallow land.

Gup Jigmi Namgyal said that the gewog is in dire need of a proper irrigation water supply and protection against wild animals if cultivation is to improve.

“For now we are waiting for agriculture officials to reach the power tillers to our gewog as we don’t have agriculture extension supervisors,” Jigmi Namgyal said.

By Tshering Wangdi,  Trashigang

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